In the U.S., each February we celebrate the accomplishments of prominent figures in the African Disapora. Dr. Carter G. Woodson, a man of prodigious intellectual standing, was the innovator of the idea in 1926. He attended venerable institutions such as University of Chicago, the Sorbonne and Harvard University and penned the classic, The Miseducation of the Negro in 1933. Starting as “Negro History Week,” it became a month-long commemoration of excellence, renamed “Black History Month.”

It has long been my idea that this month should not be limited to month-long recognition of accomplishments of Blacks in the U.S., but should be year-long and extend to those in the entire Diaspora. That has long been the mission of The Chess Drum since 2001. Each year we reflect on the past accomplishments and chart the course for the future. What is there in chess for Black History Month? Over the years, we have done a variety of commemorations including quizzes, videos, photos essays, and also a three-part series on chess history (#1, #2, #3) five years ago.

Paragon Chess Club of Washington, DC was featured in July 1950 issue of Chess Life. Discrimination and Jim Crow Laws were still commonplace in 1950, but there was certainly a Black interest in chess… as early as the mid-1800s.

Last May, more history was written when a Grand Chess Tour Rapid & Blitz was hosted on African soil (Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire). There followed the African Championships and the All-African Games. Perhaps one can say that a renaissance is emerging on the vast continent, but there is still a lot of work that is needed.

Lorita Mwango (Zambia) and Toritsemuwa Ofowino. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

African women are assumed to pursue women’s titles. Why not FM, IM or GM? Lorita Mwango (Zambia) and Toritsewuma Ofowino (Nigeria) at 2019 African Championships. Photo by Mohamed Bounaji/FIDE

The common question of how many Black GMs exist in the world of chess is a bit double-edged. Being able to count and name the number is intriguing, but makes it obvious that there are few. The question may be, “When will Africa (and people of African descent) display their true talents in the world of chess?” Looking at the growth of interest in the African Diaspora and the availability of tools, there is potential to turn the debate into an actionable and sustainable stream of talent development.

What opportunities are on the horizon for young talents like Jamaica’s FM Joshua Christie? Photo by Jamaica Chess Federation

There has been a spike in activity in some quarters of play, but the travesty is that there is no mechanism for cultivating talent of the young Black players. Accolades such as “first Black…” “strongest Black,” and “youngest Black,” are to be honored in history, but should not be our main benchmarks. How do our accomplishments compare to the larger population? This is an important question since history-making moments are more than earning a title from a subzonal tournament, or drawing/beating a Grandmaster in a single game.

There was a time when a player of African descent drawing/beating a Grandmaster was big news. At this point, it should not be a surprise. However, being able to put in consistent results to become a Grandmaster is what will make history. It seems not long ago that India only had a handful of GMs… Viswanthan Anand being the first in 1988. Now at 65 GMs, they have created a vibrant culture in the Indian Diaspora and are poised to become a preeminent chess power in the next decade or two. It’s an interesting example.

Three years ago, an essay titled, “Creating Black History in Chess,” presented a view on how to create a documented history. Facebook postings are necessary, but not sufficient method of organizing history. Each federation has to begin compiling their respective histories. If we are to make chess a part of our accomplishments during Black History Month, more needs to be done so we will have something new to celebrate each year.

Cuban champion Rogelio Ortega competing in Zdroj, Poland in 1967.
Photo by Alojzy Milka (courtesy of Dariusz Milka).

National Master Daniel X Jones
Photo by Nathan Kelly

Daniel X Jones is known best as one of the pioneers of the Chicago Chess Blitzers (CCB) and the National Blitz League (NBL). For the past few years, Jones and a contingent of Chicago chess players have staged a number of team matches against various cities. The most popular activities of the CCB have been the cage matches pitting two equally-skilled players. It has been an ongoing initiative to ignite quickplay chess around the country and also to provide training for those who are seeking to play at a higher level.

Prior to his emergence in chess, Jones was homeschooled for the first year of high school, but graduated from Rich East High School where he was on the wrestling team and also studied karate. In addition to holding a purple belt in VSK Jiu Jitsu, he has a black belt in karate and runs the Lions Paw Karate And Chess Academy on the southside of Chicago (742 W 79th St, Chicago, IL 60620). Chess and martial arts have a symbiotic relationship, both being a battle of wills. Chess can be considered a “mental martial art” as the focus required in both disciplines is apparent.

This past weekend Jones achieved a long sought-after goal by earning the U.S. National Master title this weekend at a #Quest2Master event. The event is part of a series giving “Experts” or Candidate Masters a chance to earn the coveted title. Jones’ rise was the subject of a profile here on The Chess Drum. In this event, he scored 6.5/7 (one win by forfeit) earning a whopping 60 rating points and reaching a post-tournament rating of 2207. Jones is now a certified “double master.”

In a post tournament interview conducted by organizer Nathan Kelly, Jones talked about his feat as a sense of “relief.” When asked about his 1.f4 repertoire, he affirmed his confidence in his preparation. Much has been made of his “Muhammad” opening and whether it is an original idea. However, Jones talked about the personal wrinkles that he has included in the “Bird” family of systems.

People (a lot of times) mistake it for other things which kind of gives me some initiative. If they know it, they attach Bird theory, or other openings as opposed to what I’m actually playing. A lot of times it gives me an edge.

Jones is an adherent to faster time controls, but of course, it is very different from classical or rapid formats. He got into trouble against Matthew Pullin and JJ Lang, but kept his discipline, held strong and won both games. He had a tough battle against Jimi Akintonde, a game ending in a tactical slugfest in favor of Jones. In fact, he only gave up a draw in the six games played. The game against National Master Akhil Kalghatgi had a lot of twists and turns, was well-played, but ended peacefully.

Days after the tournament, Jones posted the clinching game of the title and tournament. It has been a long time coming. What makes the accomplishment interesting is that since 2017, Jones had only played in six tournaments in the slower time controls. Perhaps he has found it to be more strategic in choosing tournaments to play in. There are times when players are 20-30 points from a particular title and in their haste, begin playing in tournament after tournament only to lose a boatload of rating points and end up with a sense of regret.

GM Ashwin Jayaram of India was recently interviewed on ChessBase India and mentioned how it took him eight years to get his 2500 rating from the time he got his three norms. He mentioned in the interview that he was simply playing in too many tournaments without much of a plan. He also became fixated on rating points and when he was unable to break through, became very frustrated. GM Amon Simutowe went through a similar tribulation. Of course, getting the Grandmaster title is an entirely different beast, but the challenge of completing any personal goal has a deep psychological aspect.

Daniel X Jones vs. FM James Canty III

Jones takes on NM James Canty III in blitz battle!
Photo by Nathan Kelly

Known by his online moniker “GodDanielX,” Jones played in his first tournament at Tuley Park in 2001 and cut his teeth on the events held by the legendary Thomas Fineberg. He continued to play work on his game, but gained a reputation for blitz. He first eclipsed the 2000 rating in 2014, but had his eyes set on the Master’s title for quite some time. Mission accomplished!

Hopefully Jones will be able to test himself against stronger opposition on a regular basis. He is now training his eyes on the FIDE Master title. Of course, his most loyal support group is his wife Zoraida and children Isaiah, Malachi and Samaya. Of course, the Chicago chess community is celebrating his accomplishment and will certainly inspire others to put in the time to achieve their goals. Congratulations!

Video by Nathan Kelly (Chicago Chess Blitzers)

Fabiano Caruana

After Fabiano Caruana won the 2020 Tata Steel Tournament, there was recurring buzz about whether the American would get another shot at wresting the world title away from Magnus Carlsen. In fact, he bested an elite field that included the champion. Next month (March 15th-April 5th), he will be in Yekaterinburg, Russia among the field of eight candidates vying for a chance to challenge Carlsen for the title.

The field is a strong one and the non-qualification of top players such as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So, Levon Aronian and Hikaru Nakamura may give Caruana a smoother path. That being said, Caruana will have his work cut out as Ding Liren and Alexander Grischuk are expected to be strong challengers for the right to play for the championship title. Ian Nepomniachtchi is one of three Russians in the field including a wildcard nominee, Kirill Alekseenko. Anish Giri and Wang Hao are going to be dark houses.

Caruana earned the right to play Carlsen in 2018 after winning the 2018 Candidates Tournament in Berlin, Germany. He went on play a 12-game match against Carlsen in London, England. The match ended in a 6-6 deadlock after the classical segment, but Carlsen dominated play in the tiebreaker.

Game #4 of the 2018 World Chess Championship
Photo by Ray Morris-Hill

Things will be very different this time around with Alexander Grishcuk being the oldest player in the field at age 36. Absent are Vladimir Kramnik (retired) and Viswanathan Anand (non-qualifier) as well of the aforementioned players in the top 20. After Caruaua’s convincing +7 win in Wijk aan Zee, he maintains his #2 spot in the rating list and goes into the Candidates with momentum.

Will this be a better chance at redemption for the American? Will 2019 Grand Chess Tour champion Ding Liren be the next challenger? Both have proven they can match wits with Carlsen and both have placed ahead of him in recent events (Ding-2019 Sinquefield, Caruana-2020 Tata Steel). Carlsen had a fantastic 2019, so it is unlikely that there will be 12 classical draws as the last match and 10 draws in Carlsen-Karjakin. This year’s championship match will increase to 14 games.

World Candidates Chess Tournament
March 15th-April 5th, 2020
Yekaterinburg, Russia

The world is mourning the death of NBA retired superstar Kobe Bryant who was killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles. Eight others were traveling on the chopper including Bryant’s daughter Gianna Bryant. There were no survivors.

Kobe Bryant
(August 23, 1978 – January 26, 2020)

Kobe was traveling to the Los Angeles area to coach his daughter’s team when the helicopter hit a path of dense fog and crashed into a mountainside in the city of Calabasas. Upon the news being released a couple of hours later, a wave of grief reverberated around the globe, but particularly in Los Angeles.

Athletes and sports fans around the world reflected on what Kobe meant as a pillar of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise, but more importantly the lessons that he left behind. Often, we want to know how we can improve in different areas of our lives. What is the key to success??

The Mamba Mentality

Chess players are often pondering this question. How do we get to the next level? Kobe Bryant was known for his tremendous work ethic and obsession with perfection. The “Mamba Mentality” has become a trending phrase to describe the pursuit of excellence.


“These young guys are playing checkers.
I’m out there playing chess.”

~Kobe Bryant


Kobe certainly saw the game of basketball differently and his discipline of studying game film, his opponents and himself, gave him an edge. There are many stories about his early morning workouts and insane work ethic. According to basketball site Ball is Life, Kobe Bryant once held a workout from 4:15 a.m. to 11 a.m. That alone would be remarkable, but what was more remarkable is that he would not leave the gym until he made 800 shots!

View this post on Instagram

Done at 6am #chinatimezone #4amclub #monstermamba

A post shared by Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) on

There were a number of examples of his work ethic. California’s O.J. Mayo was the nation’s top high school player, and saw this first-hand.

In 2007, O.J. Mayo was the top recruit at Bryant’s Kobe Basketball Academy. Mayo asked Kobe to work out with him and Bryant graciously accepted. Kobe said he’d pick him up at three. After Bryant failed to show up, Mayo asked Kobe what happened. “Three in the morning,” Kobe replied. “Not three in the afternoon.” (link)

Kobe Bryant

Besides his maniacal workouts, he also played psychological battles with opponents. Jay Williams of the Chicago Bulls recounted the story of going to the stadium for a workout before a game against the Lakers. He heard someone pounding a basketball. It was Kobe in a full sweat as if he had been working out hard for hours. Jay put his work in and after 90 minutes, had completed his workout. He still heard the ball bouncing hard, so he turned around to find Kobe still going full steam.

Kobe torched the Bulls for 40 points that night. Impressed by the performance, Jay approached Kobe and asked him why he was in the gym so long that morning. Kobe responded, “Because I saw you come in and I wanted you to know that it doesn’t matter how hard you work, I am willing to work harder than you. You inspire me to be better.”


Kobe was always thinking ahead and looked for every conceivable advantage against the competition.


He studied the legends including his role model Michael Jordan. He studied himself. He studied the opposition. Finally, he studied the conditions and sought to gain every possible edge. It was stated that he told NIKE to shave a few millimeters from sole of his shoes so he can increase his reaction time by 1/100 of a second.

Perfect Practice makes Perfect

Too often we see chess players with hundreds of books, the latest software, and certainly the passion for the game. Yet they may not improve to the level of their investment of time and resources. Why is this so? There is an adage that “practice makes perfect,” but it may be more accurate to say, “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Kobe had an off-season regimen of working out called the “Kobe Bryant 666 Workout.” In this regimen, he did two hours of running, two hours of basketball shooting/drills, and two hours of weightlifting (six hours a day, six days a week for six months). He also had a tailored diet (eliminated all sugar), hydration plan and spent time meditating. He was committed to his routine and was able to make adjustments to the regimen until it suited his needs.

Kobe Bryant learning meditation in the mountains of Taiwan in 2016

Kobe’s approach to life translated into his overall presentation
Photo from GQ magazine (December 2009)

There are not many books out there offering a full regimen for improving in chess. In chess, we often hear about elite chess players’ exercise routine, hours of study, and perhaps testing ideas playing online. It is a bit general. Is there an equivalent of mind/body/spirit regimen for chess players? Should you do one hour of physical exercise for every three hours of chess study? Should you use yoga and meditation to help you focus? Should you adopt a specific diet to nourish the brain?

How much emphasis should be placed on each phase of the game? Should you solve 100 tactical puzzles a day? Read about classic games and biographies of past champions? Study the Endgame manuals of Mark Dvoretsky? What is the balance of blitz and rapid games for serious training to test your strength? Of course, the method will be different for each player, but what seems to be the common denominator is having a tailored plan, consistent regimen and a strong work ethic.


“We are obsessive. We wouldn’t want to be doing anything other than what we are doing. That’s where obsession comes in — when you care about something 24 hours a day.”

~ Kobe Bryant


We understood the meticulous nature of Bobby Fischer and his attention to detail, work ethic and a laser focus. Kobe and Fischer shared many traits in that they worked extremely hard (primarily alone), loved to compete against the toughest competition and wanted to break the ego of their opponents. They were obsessed with the end result of victory. Both were careful about who they allowed in their circle, but they respected excellence and were ultimate professionals.

What would Kobe had been like if he pursued chess as he did basketball? He most likely would’ve been a dynamic player who would eschew the openings and try to overpower you in the middlegame. While he would have the stamina to go a full six hours, he’d probably prefer to finish the game with a flourish, an exclamation point.

He possesses some of the brash confidence of Garry Kasparov, the fighting spirit of Magnus Carlsen, the stamina and killer instinct of Bobby Fischer. Imagine a chess player with the combined traits of these elite players. Perhaps that type of player has yet to come. Kobe’s 60-point finale was an example of a man determined to make his final mark. To a tragic end comes the realization of excellence and an indelible impression in history. Thanks Kobe!

The Chess Drum honors Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and sends well-wishes to his wife Vanessa and daughters Natalia, Bianka and Capri! #Mamba4Ever #MambaMentality

2020 Women’s World Chess Championship
January 3rd-11th, 2020 (Shanghai, China & Vladivostok, Russia)
 
Flag
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
pts.
Ju Wenjun
China
½
½
½
1
0
½
½
0
1
1
½
0
6
Goryachkina
Russia
½
½
½
0
1
½
½
1
0
0
½
1
6

Tiebreaks
 
1
2
3
4
pts.
Ju Wenjun
½
½
1
½
Goryachkina
½
½
0
½
Drum Coverage

2018 World Chess Championship: TIEBREAKS
Thursday, 23 January 2020

The 2019 Women’s World Championship was one of the most exciting matches in recent memory. There were SIX decisive games during the match with three wins apiece in the preliminary classical games. Ju won the third game of the tiebreaks for the victory of margin.

This match was a severe test for the world champion as she looked rather sluggish in the classical segment of the match. Her openings were unambitious and Goryachkina kept getting chances. Fortunately for Ju, the young Russian star was unable to convert her chances.

Going into the tiebreaks, Ju mentioned that she was confident because she had a good score in rapid and blitz against Goryachkina. This was not unlike the Carlsen-Caruana scenario where the defending champion had a clear advantage in the tiebreaker.


“I am also confident about my rapid.”
~Ju Wenjun when asked if she felt down after losing game 12


Despite the advantage, Ju was still a bit shaky and nearly lost the first tiebreak game after being outplayed with the white pieces. Goryachkina missed an opportunity (41…Bxg5!) to obtain an overwhelming position and put immediate pressure on the champion. Ju held the position together and could breathe a sigh of relief. In the second game, Goryachkina also got a slight advantage, but Ju battled down to a rook ending and got a theoretical draw.

In the third game, Ju improved on game 1 (10.Bxf3) with 10…exf3!? which received approval from the commentators as a better fighting try. Black’s piece formation seemed wrong as her pieces became a jumbled mess. Meanwhile Ju increased her spatial advantage after 25.Ng4 and 26.f4. Black was forced to weaken her kingside and Ju charged ahead on the opposite wing with 29.b5! an excellent move.

The last phase of the game feature black trying to plug up so many holes in the position. It was hard to find a plan. Ju continued to press the attack after 37.f5! e5 38.dxe5 fxe5 39.f6. Black erred with 39…Rg5 when 40.f4 (again!). After a few more moves, Ju closed out the game with 43.Qg6 (threatening mate) Qd7 44.e6 Qc7 45.e7 and mate is unstoppable.

Would Aleksandra Goryachkina be able to equalize yet again?
Photo by Eteri Kublashvili/FIDE

It did appear that the public was mostly pulling for the Russian player. She would have one more chance. Goryachkina had proven that she could bounce back and her three wins in the classical were with the white pieces. She would have one bullet left.

This game repeated in the second tiebreak. The Russian player tried 8.Bb5+ in that game, but opted for the more conventional 8.Nf3. White sacrificed a pawn for a lead in development is more space, but black was able to play actively. Black returned the pawn, but it didn’t relieve all of the pressure.

White could play 25.Rcc7 to keep pressure, but there was not enough to get any winning chances. Goryachkina played another 30 moves before realizing that her chances in the match had passed. On move 77.Kg3, the two players repeated moves and the game was drawn.

Ju Wenjun beams after defending world title.
Photo by Eteri Kublashvili/FIDE

This was clearly a setback for the Russians who have been trying to secure a world championship for decades. The Russian dominance is long over, but perhaps Goryachkina stands as a bright ray of hope for the future. One of the attributes we can expect to change over time is her gloomy persona. She will mature and become a main challenger for future titles.

Congratulations to Ju Wenjun for defending her title for the second time and continuing the dominance of the Chinese in women’s play!

Official Site: https://wwcm2020.fide.com/
Match Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/ (PDF)
Games (ChessBase): http://live.chessbase.com/watch/FIDE-WWCC-2020

China
National Anthem

Goryachkina 1-0 Ju
20th January 2020

In a thrilling comeback, Aleksandra Goryachkina equalizes the match with in the 12th game. After playing 1.d4, Ju Wenjun responded in kind with 1…d5, but was hit with the improbable 2.Nc3!? known as the Versov. This seem to catch Ju off guard and she spent 17 minutes coming up with a reply.

The opening was already a success given that Ju Wenjun spent the first 40 minutes in the first 10 moves trying to figure out what to do. When you fall into time pressure in such a tense match, mistakes pile up. It appears that in a critical phase of the game Ju’s time pressure led to her demise.

Goryachkina has obtained a nice advantage, but was unable to ratchet up the pressure. Ju was able to consolidate, but then had a case of nerves and this is the way the official site describes it…

Despite objective equality on the board, Ju’s nervous play appeared to catch up to her. She seemed adrift, not being sure what to do with her pieces. Black’s sequence Qh5, Qg6, Qe4, h6 and Qh7 allowed white to consolidate and begin to probe Ju’s position with 27.e4!

Once again, white did not need to be precise, as black continued to drift with 28…Rc8 and 30..e3. It is worth noting that by move 28, both players were down to 12 minutes left until the time control, but their body language and play could not have been more different.

Ju’s lethargy in the opening created a tense moment and after working hard to avoid being overrun, she ran low on time and the mistakes begin to pile up. Appearing to be suffering from fatigue and in her quest to simplify, the game descended into a completely lost cause. Goryachkina’s ploy had succeeded and now she would have a new life in the tiebreaks.

Video by FIDE

Match Score: Ju 6 – Goryachkina 6

Official Site: https://wwcm2020.fide.com/
Match Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/ (PDF)
Games (ChessBase): http://live.chessbase.com/watch/FIDE-WWCC-2020
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2020/01/05/2019-womens-chess-championship-ju-vs-goryachkina/

Ju ½-½ Goryachkina
22nd January 2020

Ju Wenjun got nothing with the white pieces and is having problem getting the type of positions she wants. One of her wins came when Aleksandra Goryachkina overpressed, but in many of the games, Ju has not shown many ideas. Ju had won two games in a row and could end the match.

This game was also a Berlin, but varied with the 6.dxe5 Nxb5 7.a4 winning back the piece. This seen in Vallejo-Nakamura game which ended in a quick draw in 14 moves. Both players had a 40-move requirement, but this game would be dead equal after the queens came off. The rooks followed and an opposite-colored bishop ending ensued. After shuffling bishops around the board, they agreed to a draw on move 40.

Video by FIDE

Match Score: Ju 6 – Goryachkina 5

Official Site: https://wwcm2020.fide.com/
Match Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/ (PDF)
Games (ChessBase): http://live.chessbase.com/watch/FIDE-WWCC-2020
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2020/01/05/2019-womens-chess-championship-ju-vs-goryachkina/

Goryachkina 0-1 Ju
20th January 2020

Black scores the first victory of the match and it is a crucial one indeed. Ju asserted her authority in a Queen’s Gambit Declined and repeated the game from a couple of games ago when Ju played Ne4. That game did not turn out well for her. She did deviate with 6…Bf5!? receiving plaudits from GM Nigel Short. The game followed Ganguly-L’Ami played yesterday in Wijk aan Zee.

The resulting middle position had a lot dynamic subtleties that Short and Hou Yifan were working out. They were using the Carlsen-Kramnik game as an illustration. Carlsen won resoundingly, but if one looks at the Ganguly-L’Ami game, there is a strong resemblance.

What is interesting in the position is the fact that so many rules of chess have been broken. One of the differences between chess three decades ago and today is that players would never play a position with such a wretched pawn structure.

Nowadays, players consult with the engine and if it gets a good assessment, they’ll play it regardless of how horrible the structure is. The dynamism is what is important, but how does one make sense of this transition in chess understanding? It is certainly due to the advancement in the use of computers.

In this game, it is hard to understand how such a “bad” bishop can solve such problems. The commentary was actually quite fascinating and demonstrated another level of chess proficiency. The main site stated that the position had so much tension and psychology came into play.

What happened to Goryachkina next had more to do with sports psychology than with sound chess. Starting around move 25, the game was a dead draw—a result she could have forced at any point all through the first time control. Instead, she made moves like 26. b5 and 38. Bd5, probing for an advantage that was simply not there.

Ju switched her focus onto the queenside where she had a fluid pawn structure. Finally, the break 26…c5 came and this is where white began to lose the thread and play in risky fashion. Perhaps she felt there was little risk of losing the position. In fact, the commentators kept repeating the game would end in a draw.

One of the dangers when losing a game in the match is the tendency to try to win immediately. Goryachkina was able to do that in Shanghai and perhaps was overambitious. Optically, black’s position looked worse all along and this may have clouded her thinking. The final moment occurred when Goryachkina tried penetrating with the rook. After 34.Rd7 Re6 35.Rxd5 Kc6 36.Bf3 Rd6. “All drawn,” said Short.

However, the Russian went for more after 37.Rd3+ Kc7 38.Bd5, but after 38…Be8! black’s bishop was suddenly alive. Ju managed to swap the bishops and the outside passed c-pawn was the trump. Somehow Goryachkina began to play some suboptimal moves and the rook ending became impossible to hold. At the press conference, Goryachkina stated that she felt she was in control and was not affected by yesterday’s loss. Perhaps she got overzealous.

This game had many subtleties and not easy to play, but Goryachkina should have been able to secure the draw. One may ask if Goryachkina is unraveling as the tension is ratcheting up. There is a rest day and then the last two games of the match. If Ju wins again, she will clinch the match.

Video by FIDE

Match Score: Ju 5½ – Goryachkina 4½

Official Site: https://wwcm2020.fide.com/
Match Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/ (PDF)
Games (ChessBase): http://live.chessbase.com/watch/FIDE-WWCC-2020
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2020/01/05/2019-womens-chess-championship-ju-vs-goryachkina/

Ju 1-0 Goryachkina
19th January 2020

Ju Wenjun equalizes with Aleksandra Goryachkina after a resounding win in game 9 of the Women’s World Championship. The Chinese player played dynamically and flummoxed the commentators with her 21.a4! A new commentator joined the booth as “Nikolai Shortovsky” gave his insights on the position. 🙂

GMs Hou Yifan and Nigel Short

GMs Hou Yifan and Nikolai Shortovsky

After Nigel Short returned, he and Hou Yifan were both skeptical of her play because it exposed the white king. In fact she had seen that the b-file could be plugged up and at the same time, the two bishops would rake the black kingside. However, the critical moment came when Ju Wenjun sacrificed the exchange to exploit the a1-h8 diagonal.

However, tension in a championship match makes such positions doubly difficult. While Goryachkina had better moves, but perhaps got nervous and begin to falter. The move 27…Rd8 was criticized by the commentators although the engines give -1.14. It does appear that 27…Qb4! would have given black a definite edge.

The game was rich in complications. There was an interesting moment after 29…Qg2? giving Ju the chance after 30.Qe5 (threatening both Qxb8+ and Qxf6+!) Rxb3 31.cxb3 Qc6! There was still a lot of tension in the position and Ju found a way to advance her king and trade queens. Black’s queenside pawns were an immediate target and were eventually lost. Ju was able to sacrifice her last piece and get her pawns rolling. This was too much for the black bishop and Goryachkina conceded.

Video by FIDE

Match Score: Ju 4½ – Goryachkina 4½

Official Site: https://wwcm2020.fide.com/
Match Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/ (PDF)
Games (ChessBase): http://live.chessbase.com/watch/FIDE-WWCC-2020
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2020/01/05/2019-womens-chess-championship-ju-vs-goryachkina/

Goryachkina 1-0 Ju
17th January 2020

Aleksandra Goryachkina took her first lead in the match. It turns out that Ju Wenjun played a dubious line in the Queen’s Gambit after 8…Ne4?! This line doesn’t have a good reputation and the Russian demonstrated why.

It appeared that black had a solid position, but her pieces became tangled defending various weak points. The h1-a8 diagonal was also vulnerable after 30.e5! bxc5 31.Qh1! Nb8. White could’ve pressed on with 32.b5! but chose the more direct 32.Be4 and eventually crashed through.

Goryachkina received the concession from Ju in her usual stoic manner. She may realize that Ju is much too strong to be celebrating, but the truth is she has outplayed the champion thus far.

Video by FIDE

Match Score: Goryachkina 4½ – Ju 3½

Official Site: https://wwcm2020.fide.com/
Match Regulations: https://handbook.fide.com/ (PDF)
Games (ChessBase): http://live.chessbase.com/watch/FIDE-WWCC-2020
Drum Coverage: https://www.thechessdrum.net/blog/2020/01/05/2019-womens-chess-championship-ju-vs-goryachkina/

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »